Sandy Recovery: Rations, Rescues and Restoration

Now that the clouds have cleared and the lights have come back on for many New Yorkers, New York and New Jersey residents are beginning to fully assess the damage from Hurricane Sandy and take steps to move forward.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive orderFriday night to ration gasoline for cars in 12 New Jersey counties, after more than half the stations in New Jersey and Long Island shut down because of the storm, resulting in hours-long lines for customers and threatening a gas shortage. Under Christie's order, car owners with odd numbered license plates can get gas on odd days, and car owners with even numbered license plates can get gasoline on even days.

"This system will ease the strain on those gas stations still operating, while we work to bring more online for the public to access fuel, in a manner that is fair, easy to understand, and less stressful," Christie said.

Some gas stations already sold out, while others have the fuel but no power to pump it.

For JoAnne Hughes, who waited in line Friday afternoon, too much time could mean not seeing her father before he undergoes an emergency bypass at a hospital 40 miles away.

"His surgery is at 2 p.m.," she said. "That gives me about two hours to get gas. I hope I make it." She'd already waited at least 40 minutes, and said she had no idea how long it could be.

In addition to New Jersey shortages, two-thirds of gas stations in the New York metro area are out of gas, too. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced via Twitter today that temporary fuel trucks will arrive at key locations in the city for emergency vehicles and "public #recovery."

This morning, during a FEMA briefing with governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, President Obama said "we still have a long way to go" but everyone is putting in "120 percent" effort.

"We don't have patience for bureaucracy. We don't have patience for red tape," Obama said.

The president listed the five steps currently being taken: restoring power, pumping out water from flooded areas, making sure people's needs are being taken care of, removing debris and getting National Guard in place.

Rescues

Five days after Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast, Sgt. Bill Shalleesh and the rest of the New York Police Department's aviation team, are still flying over the wreckage to save people from rooftops.

Some homes are flooded, damaged by debris or no longer stand because they were washed away, and the death toll climbed above 100 on Friday.

"It's a little disturbing, a little heart-wrenching when you see," Shalleesh said, adding that his neighborhood got hit hard, too.

The aviation team rescued five adults and one child that day.

But Staten Island and the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens were hit hardest, he said. A fire broke out in Breezy Point Monday night, destroying dozens of homes. In Staten Island, the flooding was so bad that some homes were swept off their foundation and washed to a marsh.

"It almost looks like a wrecking ball just came through and just swept these homes out from this high up in the air," Shalleesh said, looking down at Staten Island. "It almost looks like toothpicks just scattered everywhere across this borough."

In the police department's harbor unit, where the 8- to 10-foot surge caused boats to washed from one side of the Staten Island Marina to the other, officers had to get creative in their rescue efforts.

PHOTOS: Superstorm Sandy's Wide Swath of Destruction

"We took zodiacs, john boats, rafts, whatever floatation devices we had," said Captain Anthony Russo of the NYPD Harbor Unit. "We were walking these rafts through the streets of Staten Island and pulling people out of their homes."

Restoration

Cheers of joy erupted in many New York neighborhoods Friday night when lights flickered on, signaling a return to power after days in the dark. For many, it meant they could finally return to their abandoned apartments. For others, it meant a return to normalcy at last.

Lower Manhattan lost power when the Hurricane Sandy surge caused an explosion at the ConEd substation at 14th street and FDR Drive Monday night. When traffic lights began working again Friday, elated screams echoed in Soho, Chelsea and other neighborhoods that had been deprived of heat, light and elevators.

Renewed power will also make it easier to continue the recovery effort, including getting the transportation system back on track.

The subway returned to limited service Thursday after Sandy crippled transit between the five boroughs on Monday, prompting the Metropolitan Transit Authority to call it the most severe flooding the subway system has seen in 108 years. But with Manhattan-Brooklyn subways still out of service, commuters waited in long lines to take shuttle buses across the East River to work.

Declaring a transportation emergency, Cuomo waived fees Thursday and Friday.

The MTA is expecting to restore Brooklyn-Manhattan routes to the 2, 3, 4, 5, D, J, N, and Q lines this weekend, according to the New York Daily News.

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